FARMINGTON — While the story of Chester Nez is captivating in writing, it's a rare opportunity to hear it in person.

After San Juan College's decision to read Nez's written account of World War II for its program, One Book, One Community, Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts decided to declare Nov. 1 "Chester Nez Day."

Members of the community and the college will gather Thursday to honor Nez, the only remaining code talker from the first 29 Navajo code talkers who developed a code for the United States military during World War II.

The code proved unbreakable by the Japanese military and helped to defeat it during the war.

"The importance that the Navajo code had in ending the war is so interesting," said Roberts, who has read the book, "Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII."

To celebrate Nez, San Juan College's One Book, One Community Committee and the San Juan College Foundation will host a "Meet the Authors" session with Chester Nez and Judith Schiess Avila, authors of Nez's account.

The session will be Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall.

Roberts will present a proclamation and Nez and Avila will discuss the book, answer questions and sign copies of the book.

The San Juan College Bookstore will have copies of the book available for $16 per copy.

"It's pretty eye-opening," said Chris Schipper, chairman of the One Book, One Community Committee. "It's a fascinating book, and it's a quick read."

Additionally, the committee and the San Juan Foundation have on display Kenji Kawano's Warrior photo exhibit.


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The exhibit includes sensitive and personal portraits of code talkers in their homes or on their native reservation.

The display has been on display in Japan and over 50 other locations in the United States. The exhibit will open in the Graphic Arts Foyer, in front of the Student Success Center, through Nov. 19.

Other events surrounding code talkers include the Code Talker Expo, Nov. 7 and 8, in the Graphic Arts Foyer. The Expo will feature the works of San Juan College students.

There also will be a Code Talker Panel Discussion on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., in the Sun Room. Navajo language and culture will be discussed by the following panel members:

* Dr. Kelly Robison, history professor at SJC, who shares the historical background of WWII

* Bill Hatch, art instructor at SJC, whose code talker art pieces are displayed on campus

* Lorraine Begay Manavi, Navajo language and Native studies professor

* Barbara Billey, associate director of the library at SJC West, and daughter of code talker Wilfred Billey.

For more information on the "Meet the Authors" or the photo exhibition, call Chris Schipper, One Book, One Community Committee Chairman, at 505-566-3449.